An Awful Christmas Long Long Ago

004The photo on the front of the book is of my brother Tommy, me and my father, it was taken in 1949 on the Clifton Suspension Bridge. I was ten years old and visiting from the Isle of Wight where I lived with my sister Lily,her husband Ben and their son Roy. It wasn’t a real family or indeed a real world for me in those days, I knew my father and yet I was forced to pretend Lily was my mother and Ben my father, Roy my brother. I wonder if you can imagine just how difficult that is for a ten year old boy. I was inwardly so angry and resented having to call my sister Mom and Ben Dad. Lily often told me I was just a bad tempered ungrateful little boy! On Christmas day 1951 all this came to a head, and would become a major turning point in my young life. The day started out just like any other Christmas morning, excitement and anticipation as we opened our gifts. At noontime we sat down for Christmas dinner,plum pudding, Christmas crackers and paper hats. After we ate, I lay on the carpet in from of the fire reading my new “Boys Own Annual” Lily made tea and Ben brought in the Christmas cake. We each received a slice along with a cup of tea. I was deep into my book while eating the cake, hardly aware I was picking the marzipan off because I didn’t like the taste. Suddenly Lily flew into a rage, I was ordered to my room and told not to show my face again that day. the Marzipan was the reason! I rose to go and picked up my book but Lily told me to leave it, I wasn’t allowed to take any of my gifts with me. In the bedroom it was cold and I was brimming with anger and sadness all at once. I didn’t know what to do where to go, what to say or think. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I shivered a little I was a very unhappy boy. I looked out of the window to the ground, it was too far below to consider escape. I also realized my overcoat and boots were in the down stair hallway, I would need both if contemplating running away. Indeed, that is exactly what I was contemplating but as I began to calm down a bit I realized I needed to think of a real plan. I climbed under my eiderdown because I was cold and as I lay there an idea began to form in my mind. Finally I fell asleep and the next thing I was aware of was Roy shaking me. Get up, he said, Mom has forgiven you and you can come back down. However, that wasn’t the real reason, relatives had arrived and I’m quite sure she didn’t want them knowing she had sent me to bed on Christmas day. After that awful day I continued to refine my escape plans, and even to this day they seem quite clever for a twelve year old boy. Lily must have realized or at least felt my growing resistance to her authority. When she hit or punished me now I defiantly refused to cry or show emotion. Early in the new year of 1952 they talked of sending me to a Naval boarding school near London, I was very receptive to the idea, but it never happened, most likely due to costs. My escape plans continued until the end of the school year. It seemed to me I could more easily escape during the summer holidays and as the days past I came up with more and more ideas. I was saving every penny I could lay my hands on, I knew I needed money for the ferry the train and the boat to Ireland. My bicycle was going to be my escape vehicle,I would ride it to London then sell it at a Pawn shop and buy my train/boat ticket. I’m not sure if it was a lack of courage or just procrastinating on my part, but it seemed I could always fine a reason to put it off until the following weekend. Then one Saturday evening in early August Lily told me to have a bath (not my favourite thing). The next morning I was told me not to go to Sunday school but to put on my best clothes anyway? I was confused and sensed that something was afoot, I was allowed to go outside but warned not to get dirty. Around noon time a car arrived in our lane, my brother,father and sister Anna got out, they had come to take me home. A few hours later I sat in the back of the little Morris 8 as we head away from the Isle of Wight. It was a day of mixed emotions, happiness, sadness and anticipation. I was happy to be going home, to my real home my real family and Ireland the land of my birth. I was sad to be leaving my school friends behind without a word of goodbye. Three years later in 1954 I joined the Royal Navy, I had been unable to settle in or to feel like a real part of my family. I was still that angry young man! the Navy was the smartest thing I ever did and provided an education I’d never have received at home. That day in 1954 I turned my life around, I put my dreadful childhood behind me,  of course it didn’t happen all at once it took time.  Today I’m no longer angry, still sad though when I think back to those awful times. Lily and Ben are gone now and while I don’t hold any real anger toward them I do still regret my unhappy childhood.  It seems at this time of year my thoughts return to that unhappy Christmas day,63 long long years ago

God Bless and keep reading

About irishroverpei

Author of "Lily & Me", "The Royal Navy & Me" and Chapter XXl Armageddon. Writer, blogger and RN Submariner, antique automobile enthusiast.
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